Heavy snowfall has caused major travel disruptions in the northern half of France as well as Paris as the weather conditions caught authorities off guard.
Hundreds of people spent the night trapped in their vehicles or in improvised shelters outside the capital after French authorities failed to clear roads on time. Several flights from Paris airports were cancelled or delayed, while Paris police urged drivers to leave their cars at home to avoid creating more traffic jams on Wednesday.
On subway services in Paris, commuters faced long journeys in packed carriages. In Velizy, a small town in the suburbs of Paris, about 200 people unable to make it back home were put up for the night in a commercial mall and a sports hall, while 1,500 others slept in 46 reception shelters opened in the French capital.
Johanna Primevert, a spokeswoman for the Paris prefecture, told RTL radio: “We did everything we could to anticipate this situation. “Between 2,500 and 3,000 people have been mobilised to facilitate traffic and provide assistance.”
France’s national rail operator SNCF has been forced to reduce the speed of its high-speed TGV trains because of the snow, which reached up to 6in in the Paris region, and advised customers to postpone their trips.
Twenty-five French departments remained on orange alert over the dangerous weather conditions on the roads on Wednesday morning, while school buses in several regions were halted. In anticipation of the cold, the “Grand Froid” plan had been launched earlier this week in 22 departments in order to create about 1,000 extra housing places for homeless people.